Cardinal Gibbons had dropped just one set this season – a 3-1 win over Apex on Sept. 29. But the Crusaders found themselves down 1-0 after losing their first set to West Henderson in the NCHSAA 3-A volleyball championships at Reynolds Coliseum.
However, Cardinal Gibbons (27-0) is the reigning five-time champion for a reason. The Crusaders quickly regrouped and reeled off three straight sets to defeat the Lady Falcons 3-1 for an NCHSAA record sixth straight title.
“Over the last two years, we have gotten away from having a star player,” Crusaders coach Logan Barber said. “Our team effort is 100 percent and all 18 kids deserve to play.”
Cardinal Gibbons has now appeared in 11 consecutive championships in two different classifications (2A and 3A), and won nine during that time.
Barber said the team didn’t panic after dropping the first set 28-26.
“We know what we need to do to be successful,” he continued. “We worked really hard to get to this point and I just told them ‘Let’s go out there and complete the plan.’ ”
The Lady Falcons (27-2) have won 35 consecutive conference championships and was making their 10th overall appearance in the finals. They are the last team to defeat the Crusaders in the playoffs.
“We started out really well, but we weren’t playing our best on every ball like they were,” West Henderson coach Tiffany Lowrance said. “Little mistakes here and there hurt us at the end.”
The Lady Falcons matched Cardinal Gibbons point for point and power for power in the first set, never trailing by more than one point. With the set tied at 26, sophomore Destynee Galloway nailed two monster kills to give her team the 28-26 win.
But instead of panicking, the Crusaders turned on the jets and never trailed again. They took the second and third sets by identical 25-16 scores. Tori Dozier pushed the ball just over the net for the second-set win, and then threw down an unhittable kill in the third for the win.
The Lady Falcons kept it close in the fourth, but Cardinal Gibbons’ serve and power proved too much.
“We’re going to remember winning, but it’s more of the memories we make as a team,” said Briley Brind’Armour who was named most valuable player. “We’re like a family.”